To art or not to art: Why you shouldn’t take art as an elective

An artist begins a new painting in watercolor, using color pencil and pastel in combination to experiment with mixed media. This is an example of art done in a classroom setting.

An artist begins a new painting in watercolor, using color pencil and pastel in combination to experiment with mixed media. This is an example of art done in a classroom setting.

Neeha Valanki, Staff Writer

Vivid streaks of red blossom onto the paper with the final stroke of a brush. The artist takes a step back to admire their handiwork before glancing at the clock. Hurriedly, they rinse the brushes and put away their supplies to go finish their chemistry homework. As they open up the laptop, one question hangs in the back of their mind: Did I make the right choice taking art as an elective? 

Art is a diverse craft, birthed by inspiration and cultivated by creativity. As a hobby artist, I spend the majority of my free time drawing to my heart’s content. People often ask me if I’ve ever taken art classes outside of mandatory courses, to which my response is no. Why? It came down to asking myself a few questions. Does my schedule allow it? What am I looking to accomplish with my art? The conclusion I came to was that taking an art class is not for most artists, especially artists at Jefferson, whose busy schedules might not be able to accommodate art classes. Picking electives is a difficult choice, but considering the environment and what kind of artist you are can make it easier to decide. 

In my opinion, there are two types of artists at Jefferson: hobby artists, whose time is spent on personal projects and honing specific talents (typically, most tend to be cartoonists or animators) and career artists who study technique more intensively, have experience with multiple mediums, and are typically looking to carry their art skills into their work. Each type of artist has different goals, and consequently needs different environments in order to thrive and encourage growth in the areas they need. Sometimes, an art course in school may not stimulate the kind of development an artist is looking for. 

Most schools have mandatory art classes throughout elementary and sometimes middle school. In these classes, they generally follow a standard curriculum and have students follow the exact same template, resulting in a dozen duplicates of the same piece. The classes are separated into units that cover a variety of mediums and styles. For hobby artists like myself, these kinds of courses make it difficult to focus for a long time on one particular medium or work to express more creativity. For example, techniques like shading and anatomy take a great deal of practice to improve on and the pacing of art courses simply don’t allow for that kind of focused repetition. This is not ideal for a hobby artist who specializes in one medium, especially as a Jefferson student with less than average free time on their hands. Attempting to take the art elective and working on personal projects simultaneously can be creatively taxing, resulting in burnout. 

However, there are alternatives to signing up for a full year course in art. Tracy Harris, the art teacher here at Jefferson, is the sponsor of the Art Club, which is a quiet environment for people to work on art projects or to spend time drawing with others. 

While the drawbacks of taking art at Jefferson should not be dismissed, it has plenty of benefits as well. Art courses are great for teaching technique and providing lots of different and potentially new experiences to aspiring artists. You may learn a lot of new ways to approach a piece, the rich history behind art, and develop important technical skills that are useful for styles that are not necessarily easy to pick up, such as photorealism. For people who have never seriously looked into art before and want to try something new, taking the art course is a great choice since it provides all sorts of opportunities to find a fun medium. 

Opting to take the art course at TJ is a tough decision, especially when seeing the gorgeous creations in the gallery made by fellow art students. Uncertainty is normal, and it never hurts to experiment with what you want to do. While I don’t recommend taking the art elective unless you want to try new things or are looking for long term projects and education in technique, know that regardless of your choice, you will always be valid as an artist.